You know your dog’s favorite toy or treat they’re most excited about, but did you know that they too have a preference for handedness? According to a recent meta-analysis published in Laterality, some dogs , have front paws that they prefer most when completing certain tasks, such as walking down stairs, reaching for treats, or holding toys.
The study found that dogs were most likely to prefer a particular paw over ambidextrous, with 68% of dogs exhibiting a left or right paw preference. However, unlike predominantly right-handed humans, the dog population as a whole does not favor any particular paw. Instead, paw preferences are believed to vary from dog to dog.
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Many dogs seem to prefer paws, but the paws they prefer may vary depending on the task at hand. For example, one study found that using a cone-shaped ball (a toy used to give pet treats such as peanut butter) resulted in a nearly even distribution of paw preferences, leading to either the left paw, the right paw, or both paws. Some people liked it. On the other hand, in repetitive tasks such as being asked by the owner to raise a paw, dogs appeared to have a more specific paw preference rather than exhibit ambidextrous responses. (Give your puppy your paw a few times to see which he or she likes best!)
Other studies included in the meta-analysis argue for a role for sex with respect to foot preference. In general, female dogs tend to prefer the right foot and male dogs prefer the left foot.
But why is it important to know which paw your pet prefers? The left side of a dog’s brain processes positive emotions, while the right side prioritizes negative emotions such as anxiety. By paying attention to your dog’s preferred paws, you can get an idea of how your dog is feeling emotionally.